Inside Stories

InsideChelmsford: the Great Kindness Challenge

by Jennie Oemig

CHELMSFORD – Compliment five people. Entertain someone with a happy dance. Lend a pencil to a classmate. Play with someone new at recess. Thank the bus or drop-off driver.

Those are just some of the kind deeds on the checklist that students at Byam and South Row Elementary Schools were challenged to perform as part of the 13th Annual Great Kindness Challenge, a weeklong initiative to spread kindness around the world.

“We have second graders through fourth graders doing a checklist of 50 kind acts,” said Betsy Dolan, Assistant Principal at Byam. “Our kindergartners and first graders have a smaller list to make it a little bit more attainable.”

Once a student at Byam completes the checklist, they turn it into their teacher, who then places them all in a box in the office.

“Every morning, we announce how many we’ve had completed in the building,” Ms. Dolan said. “We challenge the whole building to complete as many of the checklists as possible.”

Both Byam and South Row already have cultures that embrace and prioritize kindness; the Great Kindness Challenge amplifies that mission.

“Our climate and culture is kindness every day, all year long,” Ms. Dolan said. “But the kids have fun focusing on it during this one week.”

In addition to the checklists, daily acts of kindness were also performed at South Row. On Tuesday, students were challenged to make someone laugh; on Monday, they were challenged to let someone know they are appreciated.

“It always boosts morale at a tough time of the year in the winter,” said South Row Assistant Principal Jayson Ramalho. “Kindness is always something that has been highlighted at South Row. … This week, to me, is about recognizing the things that you’re doing and making a difference in somebody’s day.”

Aside from the challenges, Ms. Dolan said staff members at Byam use the week as an opportunity to discuss what it means to perform a random act of kindness and to pay it forward.

“We talk to our older students, our third and fourth graders, about being role models,” she said. “So they’re role modeling, especially when there aren’t adults around … when someone’s not watching you, and making that a habitual way of life.”

Having participated in the Great Kindness Challenge numerous times, Ms. Dolan said the atmosphere at Byam during the week is incredible.

“You see lots of smiles,” she said. “Students came up to me last week and said how excited they are to start the kindness challenge. They get excited about it, so it’s something that’s at the forefront of their minds.”

At the end of the week, teachers at South Row will be asking students to share how they created kindness during the week. Those responses will be collected and displayed prominently outside the school office.

“It’s a special week,” Mr. Ramalho said. “It makes the world a better place when we’re all kind.”

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